We took a couple days off and had a little mini-vacation up north this past weekend. Thursday night, I took my wife, son, and brother-in-law to see the Patriots lose to the Packers in pre-season football (my wife's sister's father-in-law has season tickets and wasn't going. TheBoy is a Packers fan and it was just perfect).
On the ride up, the Mrs. and I came up with a third option for the new ride. While I still really want the Challenger, right now it's just not in the cards. We were noodling over a mid-range sedan, thinking that something we could pay off in 4 years or less would be good, and then we can discuss the Challenger at that point. The Mrs.' Pilot will be about the same age as the Dodge is now, and reaching the same milestones (new tires/brakes/etc.), so it would be a natural time to trade in before putting a lot of work into it.
Then we realized: Why not a small, AWD SUV?
The Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, and Toyota Rav4 are all well-within the price range that lets us achieve the "mid-range sedan" objective. The CR-V and the Rogue get mid-20s gas mileage in the city, low 30s for highway; the Rav4 slightly less (although the Toyota does come with 2 years' free maintenance, which IMHO offsets the 2-3 MPG differential).
I checked out the Ford Escape, and the mileage drops another couple MPG, plus it doesn't have the same options at the price point (yes, the Ford is more expensive than the Honda, Nissan, or Toyota!) Another consideration is resale - the three Japanese SUVs will sell for 2X what the Ford commands when we sell in 10 or so years. And by that I mean the CR-V/Rogue/Rav4 will still be worth *something*...
Dodge doesn't offer a small SUV - the smallest they offer is the Journey, which get s 16 MPG on the highway. Jeep offers the Cherokee, Compass, Renegade, and Patriot; all are in the right price range, but at lower gas mileage numbers than any of the Japanese SUVs (21 MPG city vs. 26). The advantage to Jeep is that, since it's the same parent as the Earthf**ker, that's where I'm likely to see the highest trade-in value.
There are a LOT of options in this price range, especially with a decent trade-in. If the Mrs. is going to take the vehicle once it's paid off, it would help for it to be comfortable, dependable, and similar to what she's been driving (CR-V gets the edge here). There are going to be a lot of test-drives in my future - given that I spend 2+ hours a day in my vehicle (and make the occasional 1,000+ mile round-trip to ME), I need something that is comfortable to drive *and* sit in traffic in. That means features and accessories.
A lot of the final deal is going to come down to price - specifically, who's willing to negotiate. I know the MSRP of each car with the accessories I want, and I have a rough idea what my truck is worth, as well as what most of the manufacturers claim it's worth. If a dealer wants to offer me significantly below book value for the Dodge, they'd better be offering a staggering discount on the new vehicle, or I walk. I'm not beholden to anyone, and if enough of them piss me off, I'll rehab the damn Ram and they won't get a single penny out of me.
Looks like there are going to be a lot of test drives in my future...
That is all.